I confess. I’m guilty of talking too much sometimes and wish I didn’t have an opinion on just about everything. But it’s hard. Hearing about someone’s experience often triggers a memory of my own… and I’m dying to jump in with the “me too.” But then it’s easy to miss the second half of their story just because my mind thought of something “urgent” to say. Have you ever had someone stop to wait for your response and realized you didn’t hear some of what they were saying. Embarrassing.
Listening can only start when you give someone else the chance to speak. Makes perfect sense, but then why is it so hard? Resisting the urge to jump in takes practice, but it’s easier if you remember how great it feels when someone listens to YOU. And you can always tell when they aren’t. They’re just waiting for you to finish so they can talk, sometimes even making constant little sounds of agreement to move you along faster, “uh huh, uh huh, uh huh.” They might as well be tapping their foot impatiently and looking at the ceiling, eyes rolling. When this happens often, the impulse is to stop talking. Why bother if no one’s listening. The hidden treasure is how valuable we feel when someone is really listening to what we have to say. The one thing that everyone craves is to know that they matter, and knowing they’ve been heard is a huge part of this.
It’s a skill that takes practice. At one point in my life I wanted to be a therapist. I went back to school but was surprised that my apparent major was Listening. Our first practical application was to get an extensive family history using no more than three questions. The end goal was to use only the listening techniques that we were learning —body language and certain minimal responses — to get, and keep, people talking. If you’ve ever been to a therapist, you already know how this works. Update: I realized this career path wasn’t for me after two years.
Listening to my own children has taught me worlds. I confess to mostly being in a teaching mode when I was Mommy, but things changed as their brains seemingly surpassed mine. They gradually seemed wiser in many ways… more creative in most ways… smarter in all ways. These days I listen intently to my grown children. I usually take their suggestions and depend on them to tell me things others won’t. And, of course, they keep me current electronic-wise.
Listening well can change lives. For sure your children will have higher self-esteem if they feel you really hear them. And them happier usually means you happier. Listening means paying attention and focusing on someone else. Friendships thrive on it because it helps you connect better. Innovation thrives on it because we learn so much from one another. Besides, nothing beats a good conversation.
A stress filled life sometimes boils down to one that’s filled with lots of pressure, and listening can ease some of the pressure if you’re not a chatty extrovert. Have you ever found yourself worrying about what you’re going to say in a situation or avoided someone because you just didn’t know what to say to them? I’ve discovered that most of the time you don’t have to say anything beyond “How are you?” They’ll take it from there, and all you have to do listen. Then there’ll be a point where you can relate and think of a comment. A skilled listener – it turns out – can keep us talking, revealing and emoting, by barely saying anything.
Think of how much wiser we’d all be if we listened more. It’s a chain reaction that’s subtle; feeling wiser brings a certain amount of self assurance that’s relaxing and calming. You knew I had to talk about wisdom. Look at my name.